When Your Favorites Become Problematic
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Arts Entertainment

When Your Favorites Become Problematic

In the wake of James Gunn's removal from Marvel and the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, it is important to address the conflicts that arise and the lessons to be learned from his dismissal.

When Your Favorites Become Problematic

Waking up to the news that James Gunn had been fired by Disney was really shocking for me. Only days before had I reposted on my Instagram story the cover page of the finished screenplay for the much-anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 which he had shared on his social media. I have time and time again praised Gunn for not only transforming the genre of the superhero movie but for his brilliant use of music, text, and character which is at the root of the success of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. One of my favorite memories is being in the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles as they debuted the lineup for Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Almost every Marvel director, including James Gunn, was there to share with the selected audience their excitement for their upcoming projects which for Gunn, at the time, was Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Every other time a celebrity has been removed from their roles either on camera or behind the scenes because of misconduct or harassment I have been quick to stand behind the decision with no hesitation. However, this situation with Disney and the Marvel company has made me aware of how different that experience becomes when the person under fire is someone you admire as an artist.

That is not to say that I approve of Gunn's verbiage used in the tweets that resulted in his removal from Disney. In no context is it okay to joke or seemingly endorse rape or pedophilia. But I think it is the crudeness of these resurfaced tweets that make the situation so devastating and difficult as a fan and consumer of his work within the MCU. Does the act of wanting Disney to use his screenplay for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 counter-intuitive? Is it okay to enjoy the films and their corresponding soundtracks without seeming like I am supporting Gunn's actions?

In the past, we have seen instances where the project associated by the perpetrator has either been removed or salvaged. Netflix took immediate action to place Robin Wright at the forefront of the final season of House of Cards after the news of Kevin Spacey broke. Roseanne Barr was immediately removed from her titular role after a racist thread on twitter and in the aftermath, actress and executive producer Sara Gilbert created a spin-off including the entire original cast sans Barr which will air in October.

The fate of the Guardians is currently up in the air with fans hypothesizing who will take on the project and what will become of the beloved franchise which has "collectively made over $1.6 billion globally". Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 would have marked the first time a single director had directed the entirety of a characters trilogy within the MCU. In 2017, Gunn shared that he would continue to work with Marvel beyond the Guardians trilogy to help "expand the company's movies into the "cosmic" realm of Marvel Comics." Of course, these plans to include Gunn are no more as the director has since been fired from Marvel Studios with Walt Disney Studios chairman, Alan Horn, issuing the following statement:

"The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James' Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio's values, and we have severed our business relationship with him."

This decision has sparked a controversial divide between those supporting the decision and those who are speaking out on behalf of Gunn. Those fighting for his reinstatement in the company include Guardians of the Galaxy cast members such as Dave Bautista (Drax) and Michael Rooker (Yondu). Rooker made his stance clear by deleting his twitter with a final statement of "We're very tired & upset over the ongoing BULLSHIT." Bautista went as far as to blame the "cybernazis" who scanned through Gunn's twitter feed and found the ill-humored tweets from 2008 to 2012.

I am sure many will read this and be appalled at the notion of anyone not standing with Disney on their decision to remove Gunn. More now than ever, it is our job as a community and as activists to fight against these type of crude and violent actions or language. But I cannot help but see the point that who we are in 2008 is not who we continue to be in 2018. In response to his removal from Marvel, Gunn released a statement saying:

"My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative. I have regretted them for many years since — not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also because they don't reflect the person I am today or have been for some time."

I bring up this inner conflict on the subject because I know I am not the only one who faces a great amount of uncertainty when it comes to reprimanding the people they admire most. The firing of James Gunn has made me face the realities of how much I value artist integrity over the art in question as well as my values as a lover of story, a Marvel aficionado, and a woman.

What's done is done and I stand by the outcome of the situation if anything to accept it as a tool for learning and to create greater opportunities. While the internet may fall victim to impulse responses and limited thinking, I hope this circumstance allows for a discussion on what actions from the past define an individual in the present day as well as whether actions and words are equal in the severity of punishment. As for greater opportunities, I hope the studio (who has yet to affirm any sense of cancelation of Guardians Vol. 3 which is to begin filming in January) will embrace this situation as a chance to bring on directors of color or those who identify as female and encourage inclusive and accepting behavior in the face of such negative conduct.

I think we as fans and as people are allowed to feel confused in the face of such upsetting news. Having to redefine your feelings toward someone when they have done something so crude is never an easy task. However, the biggest lesson to take away is what we are called to do as human beings which is to be accepting of all and be able to treat everyone with kindness both in actions and in words.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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